Knowing God, Chapter 3

Know Jesus, Know God

In John 17:3 Jesus equated knowing God with eternal life when he said, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” We would be correct to reckon knowing God among the most critical goals of life, and Packer suggests that it is the solution to the general malaise of post-modern life, the bland purposelessness which has over-taken so many men, women, and children today. He says, “What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective…[and] what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?”

Among several points on the general nature of knowing God which Packer makes is one primary means which the Scriptures give, namely, that God can only be known in a personal way as one who is loved and cared for by him through knowing Jesus Christ. He is the manifestation of God in the flesh. His disciples, in the days of his earthly ministry, knew him as “the rabbi who spoke with authority, the prophet who was more than a prophet, the master who evoked in them increasing awe and devotion till they could not but acknowledge him as their God.” Of course, he is no longer physically walking this earth, eating, sleeping, and teaching his followers as in the days of the NT. But the fact that Jesus was crucified and rose again to eternal life means, among other things, that he is at this very moment “loose and at large,” so that anyone who desires may have the same kind of relationship with Jesus that the Twelve had nearly 2,000 years ago. Certainly, our relationship with him is spiritual, not physical, but we have the advantage of the full knowledge of the truths concerning his divine nature and atoning sacrifice from the beginning, whereas his earthly disciples grasped them only over time. Nevertheless, knowing Jesus Christ today is just as definite and personal a relationship as it was for those who followed him in Galilee and Judea.

Having established these principles, Packer then develops 3 principles which summarize what it means to know God and Jesus Christ whom he sent:

  • Knowing God is a matter of personal dealing. Packer says, “Knowing God is more than knowing about him; it is a matter of dealing with him as he opens up to you, and being dealt with by him as he takes knowledge of you.”

  • Knowing God is a matter of personal involvement. He explains, “we must not lose sight of the fact that knowing God is an emotional relationship, as well as an intellectual and volitional one, and could not indeed be a deep relation between persons were it not so….Believers rejoice when their God is honored and vindicated and feel the acutest distress when they see God flouted.”

  • Knowing God is a matter of grace. Packer reminds us that, “We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us, bringing us to know him by making his love known to us.”

In fact, knowing God is not nearly so important as being known by God. Of course, these two things go hand in hand, so that when we come to know God we find the greatest comfort in the knowledge that he knows us. As he closes this chapter, Packer reflects on this truth, “There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that he sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow humans do not see (and am I glad!), and that he sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, he wants me as his friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given his Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.” Truly, it is a blessing beyond compare to know God and be known by him!

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